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12.04.02 1:30 a.m.

"In fact, it comes to this: nobody is capable of really thinking about anyone, even in the worst calamity. For to really think about someone means thinking about that person every minute of the day, without letting one's thoughts be diverted by anything-by meals, by a fly that settles on one's cheek, by household duties, or by a sudden itch somewhere. But there are always flies and itches. That's why life is difficult to live. And these people know it only too well."

 -Albert Camus  

Previously in Xenology: I had not so secret fantasies about being a writer. Melissa impulse bought a bunny. The dissolution of my last two relationships occurred after the women in question cut their hair.

Drunk and Depressed
I am taking a rare night off. At the present moment I have about twenty-one pages to write for various papers, not to mention studying for finals and other tests. However, M persisted that none of that should be done tonight and I should summon up an entry.
For an assignment for one of my English classes for which I have long since lost feeling, I was to write and hand-in ten journal entries. Or, after the teacher obligingly revised after considering the apathy of my class, ten pages of one entry. I, having devised my own manner of laziness, predictably handed in a few entries from this arena and forgot about the assignment.
The entries were handed back today, as the semester draws to its inevitable and welcome close. My thirty-odd pages of entries printed off the shoddy school printers were not among them. The teacher apologetically stated that he had not yet finished with mine but found them "dense." I did not take this as a compliment, though it was said with no pejorative edge. I suppose I veer sharply away from stand-alone entries, unless something decidedly traumatic occurs, so "dense" could describe the content. I feel, otherwise, that my narrative style is fairly free-flowing and easy to read. Un-dense, if you will.
I thought little more of it, just glad to escape the class that was discussing an Austen book I skimmed through at most. I sat afterward with my light dinner in one of the campus cafes, studying randomly for a film test that defied proper study, when my teacher approached me. Though he is friendly and has never been anything less with me, being approached by authority figures outside their specific context puts me of the defensive. Granted, the cafe is on the campus of the college where he is employed and which I attend and is where the elevator to his office is housed... I did say "specific," you'll note. To the point, he approached me, making me nervous.
Sans greeting, he asked in his cultured voice that suggested one who has risen above his means, "Do you intend to be a writer?"
I considered my options. I write, doesn't this make me a writer? No, not in the sense he intended. He meant, "Do you intend to write as a means to make money?" Often this question seems akin to, "Do you wish to win the lottery today?" Well, of course. That would be very, very nice and I would enjoy that. However, it is unlikely. I replied quickly something much to that effect, leaving out the pessimistic/realistic part about it being unlikely.
"I think you should. I read your journals and it just sounds like you are practicing."
I was immensely flattered, though ostensibly he had only told me that what I had written sounds like it was written. However, one must take into account that this man thinks well of himself and his craft. Quite a bit so. He has lived in Paris and can purchase books his friends have made (wholly different from me. I can pick up movie and books my friends' parents made), thus this was encouragement.
I didn't know how to react to this, so I shyly said thank you and he disappeared onto the next elevator he could find.

Free the West Memphis Three!
That being said, Emily and I recently went over to Melissa's. The intended purpose to our trip was to watch Paradise Lost 2 - Revelations, which would explain to us why the West Memphis Three are in jail. It is Melissa's new cause and, judging from the webpage, I had thought it a good enough one to press further.
Before we could watch the DVD, Melissa had to finish playing Trivial Pursuit with her family. Despite the length of our friendship, I have had very little contact with Melissa's family. Usually, we dart into her basement room for fear of being mauled by a pet or parent. I don't do well with families.
Emily and I, evidently a source of brain power, were told to get on opposing teams. However, the extent to our contribution was randomly guessing occasionally right answers. However, my team (which was composed of Melissa's mother and Melissa's mother's friend who was gambling on-line and was perpetually confused as to when it was our turn) lost because Melissa and Emily's team was asked a question along the lines of "What computer company owns Clippy?" the answer to which is clear to anyone who has been within one thousand feet of a Microsoft product. Or one could just take the lucky guess, given that Microsoft in a multinational near monopoly. Perhaps there will be less faith in me next time. This is the second time I have lost to Melissa at Trivial Pursuit.
The last time we played Trivial Pursuit, I lost in under an hour about the MeLiza. Near the end Denise came in to help me out, actually knowing a few answers that I did not. Still, I was beaten pretty soundly. Afterward, they took me to the top of Wiccopee Mountain and we learned that the "noose" seen by Denise was actually a series of strange pulleys on all of the trees in a circle. Frankly, that was worse. But this is another story for another time.
After I had been trounced good-naturedly, we fled for the basement. Emily was thrilled, as this meant that she would get to play with Benson the Bunny (whom Melissa claim is actually named Shithead). Melissa and Emily had gone to Wal-Mart earlier in the day while I toiled in the book mines and, between girl talk and the trying on of perfume (no, seriously, this is what Emily said they did),
His name is Benson Bunny
Emily had purchased various wood treats for her lapin love and she was anxious to watch him chew through the fruit favored dinosaurs.
However, once we were in Melissa's room, Benson was pronounced too skittish to be taken from his cage. Emily moped a bit, but the documentary seemed to distract her sufficiently. I'm not sure I can do justice to the case. I advise you visit Free the West Memphis Three and read up on this injustice. The documentary was very well done. By the end I was thoroughly disturbed by the images of the slain boys, but I didn't see it at exploitative or gratuitous. I am shocked that Mark Byers was not more of a suspect from the very beginning. Everything about him is so artificial and reeks of guilt. It is shocking to think that the American justice system can so egregiously be manipulated and undermined. As I age, I trust the government a great deal less.
Perhaps my lack of faith is largely owing to the Bush administration, however.

No, Really, I Could Write
On the 22nd of November, I was supposed to go see my dear Elza in concert. She rarely plays around here anymore, so I made sure both Emily and I would be free to see her. And we were free. Until Emily remembered it was her grandfather's 95th birthday.
Quite the shorn cutie
Of course, propriety won over fun. It wasn't exactly dreadful, as I would get to eat in a fancy restaurant and see Emily get dressed up.
I was in a deeply foul mood on the way up. Perhaps it was work, as the patrons of the library practice their literacy nearly as much as their hygiene, which is to say rarely. Perhaps it was random Kate angst, as I was experiencing some issues with the newly returned lass. Perhaps it was that I knew I would not see Elza. I just knew that I was not a happy Xen. As such, as the radio would not oblige me by playing appropriate songs, I ran through monologues until I stumbled upon one to relieve my stress. It was a bit from Arthur Miller's After the Fall wherein Quentin is calling Maggie on the fact that she wants him to help her kill herself and how she is a hateful woman who want everyone to believe she is full of love. There may have been some changing of name in the monologue to increase its efficacy.
When I arrived at M's, I was largely purged of my angst to her relief. As I entered, I noted that Emily's hair was quite a bit shorter and complimented her as to the look by saying, "Wow, you cut your hair and didn't turn evil. That's impressive. It looks very cute, Puppy." In a favorable way, she did look a bit like a cocker spaniel, a comparison she quickly adopted.
Emily told me before we left that she had devised a worry list onto which she wrote that which worried her and possible solutions. I was on the worry list, as she fretted that our relationship seemed rocky because she felt I had been short with her. Her solution was to speak to me. My solution to her solution was to tell her we are good and kiss her. No more worry.
When we went to pick up Emily's grandfather, he took me aside. I was slightly worried he was going to tell me that he wasn't going to be getting any younger and he wanted great-grandkids, but this was not the case. It turns out that he has been helping an author who is writing a novel about a jewel thief in the late 1800s. As Emily's grandfather was a jeweler prior to his retirement, the author has been speaking to him. Emily had informed her grandfather of my fondness for writing, so he would like to show this woman my work. While this is a wonderful chance, I am in a panic as to what of mine is worth showing. I welcome suggestions.
We got to the restaurant, which was indeed nice. I had to help Emily down the steps, as she had overexerted herself while working out. It was a bit funny to have to need this twenty-three year old angel around while her grandfather walked with a spring in his step.
The dinner was decidedly nice, though I needed to have several terms explained to my uncultured brain. I really just need to take a class in passing oneself off as a cultured gentleman. Or possibly read more Jane Austen. Still, I managed to accidentally order ice cream covered in a foul, walnut liqueur, which I had to send back despite my embarrassment. Xen and alcohol doesn't mix well. Emily decided in the middle of the meal that everyone at the table was a dog of some sort because she was a cocker spaniel. I believe I was an Afghan hound.

It turns out I may actually pass my graduate course this semester. Quite possibly with a decent grade. Evidently, no one was much concerned as I only have trouble with hard sciences like physics. I have only one more paper to write, that being a critical analysis of a text of my choosing. That text will be Fight Club, despite the fact that my teacher thinks I am uncultured for writing about a book she has not read. (She has clearly read every book worth reading.)

Walking on campus recently, I stumbled upon a congregation of women shivering in the cold with teased, bleach blonde hair. Perhaps I noticed the multicolored, crepe paper balloons floating us from the center of the horde caught my attention first. But the frosted bangs were a close second.
I called out to them and asked what class this was for. There was entirely too much thought before one of the mob pronounced that it was early childhood education. I suppose she meant that she intended to teach it, not that she was receiving it (despite evidence to the contrary). I walked over to them, as I knew this likely meant Tina would likely appear. There are only so many classes that can justify this sort of thing and it sounded exactly like one into which Tina was enrolled.
Tina obligingly popped out of door moments later, carrying a sad looking balloon. She was happy to see me however and we chatted as she waited her turn to launch her balloon into the calm sky.
She informs me that she is going to be doing her student teaching at an elementary school in Utica, which is about three hours north of her home. I pronounced this ghastly, as I am oppose to anywhere that is nearly always cold. However, she feels this is a necessary step for her; something she has to do. I inquired as to how Stevehen felt about this and would he be joining her. As we watched one of the balloons combust in the air and burn to ash on the dewy grass, she said he would be remaining in Poughkeepsie despite the fact that he is to complete Dutchess in a few short weeks.

Soon in Xenology: Compare and contrast between female characters that are reentering my life. M's lack of job (again). Kate's return.

last watched: Satan's School for Girls
reading: On the Road
listening: Amnesiac
wanting: my papers to be written and 500 pages of text absorbed for my test.
interesting thought: I sustain.
moment of zen: seeing nearly a foot of snow outside my window.
someday I must: write something worth reading.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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